I have become jaded by the sheer amount of reunion tours we have seen in the punk, emo, and hardcore communities over the past few years. When I see a new reunion tour announced, I pretty much instantly assume the band is doing it as a cash grab, or as a nostalgia-driven ego stroke, or more often than not: a combination of both. With the exception of At The Drive In, who openly declared that their recent reunion was about the money, my cynicism refuses to let me believe that there is anything more at play in these tours.
That is, I felt that way, until I saw Underoath on their Rebirth tour.
The build-up to the tour had all the makings of a cash grab: the tickets went on sale a half-year in advance, it came fresh on the heels of a documentary of the band’s farewell tour, and it took the form of the oft-overused album anniversary tour. The band would be playing their two seminal albums, They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line. And yet, from the moment the band walked out on stage until the final notes of Define the Great Line closer “To Whom it May Concern,” I never once got the impression that Underoath was phoning it in or just there to cash a check.
Kicking off the celebration was the instrumental post-rock band Caspian, who ripped through a captivating 5 song, 40 minute set. These lengthy compositions allowed Caspian to ebb and flow with the crowd. Meandering at times in their low back lights before exploding forth in a burst of technicolor strobes and a tsunami of distorted guitars. They provided a perfect counterpunch to the crowd’s anxious energy building while waiting for Underoath.
The impatience of the crowd was quickly quelled by the raucous beginning to Underoath’s set:
Wake up, wake up, wake up, this is not a test.
The crowd was already awake though, barreling forward with the sort of reckless urgency that forced photographers out of the photo pit after just a hair more than one song, our safety endangered by the onslaught of crowd-surfers.
The safety concerns didn’t get much better from within the crowd, as, through no fault of the band, the Electric Factory was disturbingly filled to the brim with attendees. S much so that the moment I left the photo pit I was shoved against a wall and a garbage can and rendered immobile for the entire first album performance. You have to give the crowd credit, it certainly seemed as though they were making up for lost time. But luckily things settled down and I was able to enjoy the remainder of the set, the absolutely stellar Define the Great Line, with a little more breathing room.
It’s fitting that I would get more room to move for that particular album, as I’ve always found its particular brand of atmosphere so spacious. Songs like “You’re Ever So Inviting” bring a larger scope to the metalcore leanings of the band’s earlier records, while the unequivocal set highlight “Casting Such a Thin Shadow” roars forth from an almost cavernous soundscape into a powerful, cinematic climax.
As the show wound down, Spencer Chamberlain made repeated suggestions that Underoath would be back to Philadelphia in the future, and it got me thinking that perhaps reunions aren’t about the past at all. It was a moment of epiphany for me; reunion tours are meant to be triumphant and celebratory, not a wistful look at what used to be. And if that’s what a reunion should be — then Underoath certainly achieved that and more with their Rebirth Tour.